Research leader

Dr Imtiaz Dharssi Research Leader
Paul Fox-Hughes
Paul Fox-Hughes Research Leader

Research team

Claire Yeo
Claire Yeo Research Team
Dr Vinod Kumar Research Team
Jeff Kepert
Dr Jeff Kepert Research Team
Jeffrey Walker
Prof Jeffrey Walker Research Team
Ian Grant
Dr Ian Grant Research Team
Adam Smith Research Team
Peter Steinle Research Team

End User representatives

John Bally End-User
Paul Fox-Hughes
Paul Fox-Hughes End-User
Rob Sandford
Rob Sandford End-User
David Taylor End-User
Mark Chladil
Mark Chladil End-User
Andrew Sturgess End-User
Jackson Parker End-User

Good estimates of landscape dryness underpin fire danger ratings, fire behaviour models, and flood prediction. Soil dryness also strongly influences heatwave development by driving the transfer of solar heating from the soil surface into air temperature rise.

Fire intensity, spread rate and ignition are sensitive to the fuel dryness, which is strongly linked to soil moisture content. Estimates and forecasts of fuel dryness and soil moisture are the foundation of the fire danger calculations used to rate and manage bushfires and to warn of developing fire danger. Similarly, estimates and forecasts of soil moisture are essential ingredients to be able to forecast with accuracy river flows on a seasonal scale (one to three months), which is much in demand by water managers and reservoir operators.

This research has developed a prototype, high-resolution soil-moisture analysis system called JASMIN, which is a significant improvement in accuracy compared to currently used models. It is based on research that examines the use of land surface models, remotely sensed satellite measurements and data assimilation techniques to improve the monitoring and prediction of soil dryness. The new information will be calibrated for use within the existing fire prediction systems. This retains the accuracy, temporal and spatial resolution of the new product without changing the overall climatology of Forest Fire Danger Index and other calculations based on soil moisture.

A pilot project is being initiated, where rescaled outputs from routine JASMIN runs with daily updates will be published in registered user webpages for fire agencies to assess. The routine updates will also be disseminated to the Bureau of Meteorology’s extreme weather desk, where the severe weather forecasters can assess the product using the forecasting tools (for example, the Bureau of Meteorology’s Visual Weather product) available to them. Also, fire agencies using Visual Weather will be able to use the outputs directly.

A case study of the State Mine fire in the Blue Mountains in October 2013, compared JASMIN with the traditionally used Keetch-Byram Drought Index. JASMIN is far drier compared to KBDI, which may be under-predicting the soil dryness, as verifications have shown that it generally has a large wet-bias.

Immediate benefits for emergency and land management agencies will be improvements to the fire danger rating and warning system, fire behaviour and flood prediction models, which will flow on to emergency warnings issued to the public. The project’s long-term goal is to integrate JASMIN’s outputs into the new National Fire Danger Rating System.

Year Type Citation
2019 Journal Article Kumar, V. & Dharssi, I. Evaluation and calibration of a high-resolution soil moisture product for wildfire prediction and management. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 264, 12 (2019).
2019 Report Kumar, V. & Dharssi, I. Use of remote sensing measurements and data assimilation techniques to improve estimates of landscape dryness. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2019).
2017 Journal Article Kumar, V. et al. Comparison of soil wetness from multiple models over Australia with observations. Water Resources Research 53, 633-646 (2017).
2017 Report Kumar, V. & Dharssi, I. Downscaling of soil dryness estimates: a short review. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
2017 Report Kumar, V. & Dharssi, I. Evaluation of daily soil moisture deficit used in Australian forest fire danger rating system. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
2017 Report Kumar, V., Dharssi, I. & Holmes, A. Mitigating the effects of severe fires, floods and heatwaves through the improvements of land dryness measures and forecasts: annual project report 2016-17. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
2016 Conference Paper Rumsewicz, M. Research proceedings from the 2016 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2016 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Conference Paper Dharssi, I. & Kumar, V. A high-resolution land dryness analysis system for Australia. AFAC16 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Journal Article Holgate, C. M. et al. Comparison of remotely sensed and modelled soil moisture data sets across Australia. Remote Sensing of Environment 186, (2016).
2016 Report Dharssi, I. & Kumar, V. Mitigating the effects of severe fires, floods and heatwaves through the improvements of land dryness measures and forecasts: Annual project report 2015-2016. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2015 Conference Paper Rumsewicz, M. Research proceedings from the 2015 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2015 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Conference Paper Dharssi, I., Kumar, V., Yeo, C., Bally, J. & Kepert, J. D. Mitigating the Effects of Severe Fires, Floods and Heatwaves Conference Paper 2014. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Wellington Conference 2014 (2015).
2015 Presentation Dharssi, I. & Kumar, V. Mitigating the effects of severe fires, floods and heatwaves through the improvements of land dryness measures and forecasts. (2015).
2015 Report Dharssi, I. & Kumar, V. Mitigating the effects of severe fires, floods and heatwaves through improvements to land dryness measures and forecasts: Annual project report 2014-2015. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Report Dharssi, I. Mitigating the Effects of Severe Fires, Floods and Heatwaves Annual Report 2014. (2015).
Date Title Download Key Topics
21 Mar 2014 Monitoring and prediction PDF icon 7.35 MB (7.35 MB) flood, modelling, multi-hazard
07 Aug 2014 Fire Weather Research and Development PDF icon 3.3 MB (3.3 MB) fire weather, governance
08 Sep 2014 Mitigating the effects of severe fires, floods and heatwaves PDF icon 1.7 MB (1.7 MB) fire, flood, forecasting
27 Oct 2014 Mitigating the effects of severe fires, floods and heatwaves fire, flood, forecasting
27 Oct 2014 Modelling the fire weather of the Coonabarabran fire 13 January fire, flood, mitigation
04 Dec 2014 Mitigating the effects of severe hazards PDF icon 1.62 MB (1.62 MB) fire, flood, remote sensing
05 Dec 2014 Mitigating the effects of severe hazards PDF icon 1.99 MB (1.99 MB) forecasting, modelling, soil moisture
26 Jun 2015 Verification of Soil Moisture from Multiple Models for Bushfire Danger Rating Applications PDF icon 4.32 MB (4.32 MB) fire, flood, remote sensing
11 Sep 2015 Verification of soil moisture from multiple sources for bushfire danger rating applications PDF icon 3.33 MB (3.33 MB) fire impacts, soil moisture
03 Apr 2016 Monitoring and prediction - cluster overview File 0 bytes (0 bytes) forecasting, multi-hazard, scenario analysis
30 Aug 2016 A high resolution land dryness analysis system for Australia - Imtiaz Dharssi PDF icon 3.93 MB (3.93 MB) fire weather, flood, severe weather
24 Oct 2016 Mitigating the effects of sever fires, floods and heatwaves through improvement to land dryness measures and forecasts PDF icon 3.12 MB (3.12 MB) fire, flood, forecasting
28 Nov 2016 Monitoring and predicting natural hazards PDF icon 853.18 KB (853.18 KB) forecasting, modelling, severe weather
18 May 2017 Towards an improved land dryness estimate for fire prediction PDF icon 5.71 MB (5.71 MB) fire, flood, remote sensing
14 Jun 2017 Soil moisture prototype improves forecasts PDF icon 186.47 KB (186.47 KB) forecasting, land management, soil moisture
07 Jul 2017 Building bushfire predictive services capability PDF icon 9.97 MB (9.97 MB) fire, fire weather, modelling
31 Oct 2017 Mitigating the effect of severe fires, floods and heatwaves through improvements to land dryness measures and forecasts PDF icon 1.38 MB (1.38 MB) forecasting, land management, mitigation
19 Sep 2018 Evaluation and calibration of a land surface model based soil moisture analysis for fire prediction PDF icon 3.08 MB (3.08 MB) soil moisture
23 Nov 2018 Mitigating the effects of severe fires floods and heatwaves PDF icon 2.29 MB (2.29 MB) forecasting, severe weather
Mitigating the effects of severe fires, floods and heatwaves through the improvements of land dryness measures and forecasts
25 Aug 2014
This project will improve Australia’s ability to manage extreme events by developing a state of the art,...
Sources of Soil Dryness Measures and Forecasts
18 Aug 2015
Emerging new approaches to evaluate landscape dryness through the use of satellite remote sensing data, land...
Vinod Kumar Conference Poster 2016
14 Aug 2016
Soil dryness is a key component in operational fire danger rating systems.
Improved measures and forecasts of soil dryness
29 Jun 2017
New approaches are available to calculate soil dryness more accurately through the use of satellite remote...
A new soil dryness product for fire prediction applications
19 Sep 2018
The present study discuss the development and evaluation of a new soil dryness product based on an advanced ...